At its regularly scheduled meeting this week, the Lake County Board approved spending $12 million on ten projects, program extensions, and budget changes, including a $6 million budgetary allocation for renovations to the Depke Juvenile Justice Complex in Vernon Hills.
The American Rescue Plan Act allocated federal funds to Lake County, and the Board approved an additional $1.277 million to extend its food distribution programs, about $203,000 to pay therapist salaries at the Children’s Advocacy Center, and about $255,000 to continue running the call center for pandemic response at the Lake County health department.
The Depke project will “decompress” the complex’s spaces and offer new lighting, better ventilation, individual workstations for staff, and different places where personnel may gather with their families away from their private workspaces. Residents voiced their opinions during public comment on Tuesday, and Republican Ann Maine criticized numerous board activities on the schedule for being closed to the public.
Talk of greater openness and community participation predominated conversations on the floor. Ray Edwards of Waukegan expressed displeasure about the length of time it took the county to authorize around $900,000 for a new project to combat gun violence, under which “violence interrupters” will be paid to work in Waukegan, North Chicago, and Zion.
Edwards recalled holding a news conference about it at the sheriff’s office in June. “September has come and gone, and nothing.” According to Edwards, county leadership should do more to support the community members who are already working to address and prevent gun violence. He said, “It takes so long for anyone to collect money from this board, but you guys don’t take that long to get paid.” “You are compensated.
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When you least expect it, you receive it. I guess I’m sick of going to funeral homes. I’m sick of seeing people in the emergency room who have been shot. He continued, “I don’t get paid for this, but I’m doing the work. “But everybody gets compensated, right? Are we genuinely attempting to halt the violence? I wonder sometimes.
The executive director of Lake County’s Black Lives Matter chapter, Clyde McLemore, stated his support for the program and financial investments in mental health. He noted that he and Edwards were on the scene to defuse tensions between citizens and police last week after a Zion cop killed a man who police claim shot at officers. He also stated that additional resources are required to avert violence.
According to McLemore, the mothers, spouses, and wives of those killed in acts of violence need to be consoled. “There is no dispute settlement.” Maine lamented the absence of information about the $2.9 million settlement with the family of Jacob Williams, a resident of Winthrop Harbor. The Board unanimously approved he died in a collision with a county snowplow in 2021.
According to Maine, nothing is mentioned in any of the bullet points or this plan. Therefore, the general public cannot understand this objective or the purpose of these charges—such a large sum of money. I sincerely ask that we once more make public the way these funds are being used. Maine also complained that the Board should have made a recording of a training session for County Board members on the Freedom of Information Act available to the public.
According to Maine, “they were worried that the public would find out what kinds of inquiries they asked and stuff like that.” “I’m not concerned about it. Perhaps this is because I’m a teacher, and it’s expected that you ask questions. That’s great. The general public should be aware of our efforts to learn and comprehend things thoroughly.
To reduce in-person interactions and enhance customer experiences, the Lake County Clerk and Recorder’s Offices will receive $2.15 million. Additionally, the Board approved $159,000 to fund an additional epidemiological staff member from July 1, 2023, to December 31, 2024, as part of the county’s Communicable Disease Program.
The Board approved a new, three-year collective bargaining agreement covering the deputy and telecommunicator components of the Lake County sheriff’s office on Tuesday. The new deal covers around 171 employees and includes a 2.5% pay raise that will go into effect on December 1 of this year and a 3% salary settlement retroactive to December 1, 2020.
The Board’s unanimous decision to officially take over the duties and operations of the former Lakes Region Sanitary District concluded a dissolution process that began in 2019 and was secured by an intergovernmental agreement. After the procedure was started in 2017, Hunter hailed the finalized dissolution as “a job well done in a bipartisan approach.” Before being named to the Lake County Board last year, he was the LRSD board’s president.
Hunter states, “This taxing body was a glaring illustration of the duplication of services for taxpayers in my district.” “This organization, in the early 1970s, specifically built a sewer tributary system in the communities surrounding many lakes in western Lake County since the septic systems were failing. The district performed admirably. There was no longer a need for the section once that function was completed and the original principles were realized.
The dissolution will save the typical homeowner in Hunter’s District 5, which encompasses Fox Lake, Volo, Ingleside, and Lakemoor, as well as portions of Lake Villa, Wauconda, and Round Lake, about $175 annually, according to Hunter. Billy Coleman, the North Chicago Think Tank founder, urged Lake County officials to increase communication with the general population.
He claimed that residents in communities like Waukegan, North Chicago, and Zion have lost faith in public officials and are less inclined to participate in outreach initiatives, which feeds a cycle of disengagement and disinvestment. Even in meetings like this, civic engagement and participation are a shortage. Many funds and programs from North Chicago, Waukegan, and Zion do not have effective reporting.
District 18 representative Julie Simpson concurred with Coleman and the other respondents who advocated for better outreach initiatives and welcomed examination of county leadership. Brent Ross, a Highland Park resident, was appointed by the Board to the Southlake Mosquito Abatement District after his nomination was delayed in August. The Board authorized the Manitou Creek Drainage District Board, the East Skokie Drainage District Board, and the reappointments of Todd Needlman and Jim DeNomie.